Inquiry planned to protect regional infrastructure following airport closure

Oliver Coppard, Mayor of South Yorkshire, has outlined plans for an independent inquiry to help protect strategic infrastructure in this region.

This has been triggered by the decision of Peel Group to close Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) last year and follows an unsuccessful appeal for judicial review of the company’s decision by Doncaster Council.

The inquiry will look at whether new powers, policies or laws are needed to protect similar and new infrastructure projects in the future, at the local, national, and regional level – including through the region’s devolution settlement.

Its findings are expected to hold lessons for places outside of South Yorkshire.

It will be chaired by lawyer, business, civic leader and former High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, Martin McKervey.

Coppard said: “What happened to our airport should never have been allowed, and yet we did not have the ability to stop it from happening.

Oliver Coppard

“We were at the mercy of a private company over whom we had no control, and a government in London who refused to intervene. That simply can’t be allowed to happen again.

“Increasingly, we are talking about how proper devolution might work in this country. For me, proper devolution has to mean putting power in the hands of our communities so we can build the type of economy we want for our region and have proper democratic control over the infrastructure we all rely on.

“South Yorkshire has lost two airports in ten years. Despite the millions of investments and the years of support our region poured into DSA, when push came to shove we simply didn’t have the powers, money or control we needed to stop it from being closed and mothballed.

“We need to urgently look at how we shift the balance of power back into the hands of our communities.”

Doncaster Council says it is pursuing a Compulsory Purchase Order for the airport.

The inquiry’s scope will be defined so as to prevent its work being in any way prejudicial to ongoing legal action surrounding the airport.

McKervey said: “The strong feelings of business and the local community over Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s closure show that – whilst due process is of course to be respected – it is clearly not enough in itself to ensure private decisions and regional ambitions are aligned.

“It is therefore right that independent experts – trusted by business, the community and a wide range of stakeholders – come together to review what more can be done to protect our critical infrastructure and economic assets.”

The inquiry will be led by the independent chair, with a secretariat provided by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority at arm’s length to maintain independence.

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